March 9, 2014

Stop Checking Email in Bed and Take Back Your Early Morning and Your Calendar

I had a great, energizing, productive and life-giving week, and hope you did, too. Thursday I led a full-day session covering the major themes from New Sales. Simplified. for a client’s BD team, and then spent Friday in 1:1 coaching sessions with many who attended on Thursday. The individual sessions were as unique as I’d ever experienced ranging from planning the agenda for a super-high level meeting with a dream customer (prospect), to refocusing major sales story talking points from “capability focused” to “client issue focused,” to helping one BD person see how his gentle, cautious approach was inhibiting him from challenging customers’ assumptions early enough in the sales process. I’ve never enjoyed a full-day of back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings as much!

But the last 1:1 of the day was the most interesting of all. We quickly got off the beaten path and away from basic sales content as this highly professional individual wanted to talk about time management and efficiency, not technique. Within minutes, we had cut through the crap and I had him listing his four highest payoff activities that would drive news business success in 2014. We talked about time-blocking and taking back control of his calendar. We discussed strategies for pre-booking sales trips as far into the future as possible, and filling up his calendar with high-value activities before others in the company could invite him to non-revenue producing meetings. As an aside, I’ve found that the bigger the company, the worse the problem of perpetually receiving calendar invites from others requesting your presence at their important meetings. I coach executives and salespeople to be as selfishly productive as possible, and to see it as a race to time-block their calendars and claim the space before others get there looking to reserve/steal time for their own priorities.

Once we came to agreement on the best way to implement a time-blocking regimen, we took the conversation about becoming more selfish and more efficient up another notch. This business development person shared what long hours he was putting in, and how much of his early morning was consumed by responding to emails. As we dug in on the topic, I was prompted to pull up some content I assembled last summer that was inspired by a Michael Hyatt podcast. Hyatt tackled  the “early morning ritual” which was the catalyst for me to further research the topic. In doing so, I discovered two enlightening points: First, almost every high-producer/top-performer has virtually the same early morning routine:  They rise very early; they hydrate; they exercise; they have a quiet time to gather themselves and/or a a time of prayer and spiritual nourishment; they eat a healthy breakfast, review big-picture goals, and they identify high-priority and high-payoff activities for the day. And the item that’s not on any of their early morning activities? Yup. You got it, and that’s the second big point: None of these top-performing, highly successful people check email in bed, or at all, for the first couple hours of the day.

Is that last point convicting? Does it cause you to pause? It sure stopped me in my tracks. I knew my morning ritual was badly in need of a tune-up. And seeing the common elements from so many successful people was very helpful in rethinking how I started my day. But the thing that hit me like a ton of bricks was how I was allowing inbound email to dictate my early morning mood, my very first business thoughts of the day, and that I was effectively abdicating control of how I spent my first hour or two. Instead of owning those early morning “golden hours,” I had become hostage to what was in my inbox. Ouch!

Questions to consider:

  • Who owns your calendar? What percent of the appointments and meetings were created by you and driven by your priorities versus what percent were put there by someone else?
  • How can you more effectively and proactively time-block your calendar to protect important chunks of time to work on your high-payoff activities?
  • What does your current early morning routine look like?
  • Is what’s in your email when you wake up dictating how you spend the first couple hours of the day? What are the consequences of abdicating control of your early morning to your inbox?